EPL

Ronaldo and Fernandes not dwelling on Arsenal win as Man Utd look ahead to Rangnick tenure

By Sports Desk December 03, 2021

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes both refused to dwell on Manchester United's come-from-behind win against Arsenal as the Red Devils look ahead to life under interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

With Rangnick watching in the stands, Ronaldo scored twice to lead United past Premier League rivals Arsenal 3-2 on Thursday before caretaker boss Michael Carrick announced his departure from Old Trafford.

Carrick – who was placed in temporary charge after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, overseeing wins against Villarreal and Arsenal, and a draw at Chelsea – revealed he would not be staying on and serving as a coach under Rangnick.

After helping to snap United's three-game drought in the Premier League, superstar Ronaldo quickly switched focus as Rangnick prepares to see the embattled giants through until the end of the season.

Ronaldo, who scored the 800th and 801st goals of his illustrious career, wrote via his social media pages: "Our minds are already set on the next game, there's no time to celebrate!

"Today's win was very important to get back on track, but there's still a long road to go until we reach our destination… Congrats to all my team-mates, great spirit tonight."

United – seventh in the standings and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea – scored three goals in a home Premier League game against Arsenal for the first time since February 2016, with Carrick completing all 90 minutes that day.

The Red Devils were forced to come from behind following Emile Smith Rowe's 13th-minute opener – Fernandes restoring parity a minute before half-time.

Fernandes made his 100th competitive appearance for United. Since his club debut in 2020, he has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions than any other player for Premier League sides (79 - 45 goals, 34 assists).

Ronaldo put United ahead seven minutes into the second half, only for Martin Odegaard to equalise two minutes later, though the Portuguese superstar sealed United's victory via a 70th-minute penalty.

"Every win is important for us at this moment," Portuguese star Fernandes told Amazon Prime post-match.

"We know that we have been through a lot of ups and downs, and it has been hard for us to come out of that.

"Today we got a great win, but we cannot stop here and be satisfied because we beat Arsenal. The next game is coming quick, so we have to put our heads on that straight away and be ready for that one."

On countryman and team-mate Ronaldo, Fernandes added: "What can you say about that? It's incredible.

"He's proving game by game, year by year, season by season, that he wants to keep being the best, he wants to be the best and that's what he did.

"He doesn't need anyone to motivate him, he knows how to do it and how to carry on scoring goals."

Before players were told of Carrick's decision to step down, Fernandes hailed the former United midfielder.

Carrick, winner of five Premier League titles and a Champions League crown among other honours during his 12 years as a player in Manchester, made 464 appearances for United between 2006 and 2018 before stepping into coaching.

"Michael can be a really good manager in the future if he gets the chance," said Fernandes. "He knows how to speak, he knows a lot about football.

"He was one of those great players that not a lot of people talk about but from what I know and what I have seen, he can be a top coach."

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  • Doncic leads Dallas into tussle with fellow form team Phoenix Doncic leads Dallas into tussle with fellow form team Phoenix

    Two teams in the NBA are on league-leading four-game winning streaks heading into Thursday's schedule. The pair face one another at American Airlines Center.

    The Phoenix Suns have pulled clear of the Golden State Warriors at the top of the West, their league-best record improving to 34-9 while Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Co are .500 across their past 10 games.

    But this latest Suns run has been matched by the Dallas Mavericks, who are again recovering from a slow start.

    The Mavs have won 10 of their past 11 outings after a 16-18 start. In 2020-21, Dallas recovered from an early 8-13 record to take the fifth seed – the same position they again occupy.

    Dallas' problems prior to these recoveries have undoubtedly been linked to Luka Doncic, their sensational superstar who has tended to end seasons in more impressive fashion than he begins them.

    Doncic has been the preseason MVP favourite in consecutive years but each time showed up looking a little out of shape.

    The Slovenian is not denying that, saying in December: "I had a long summer. I had the Olympics, took three weeks off and I relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much. I've just got to get back on track."

    But there are signs now that Doncic is delivering as promised. Having returned from an ankle injury to feature in nine of the Mavs' past 10 games, he had a year-high 41 points last time out against the Toronto Raptors. Three of his five triple-doubles for the year have come in this period, too.

    Will this improvement continue against Phoenix, though?

    The Suns are 5-0 against Dallas across the past two seasons, albeit all five meetings (three last year, two this year) have come during those tricky starts for the Mavs.

    Since themselves returning to contention, Phoenix have not yet played a Mavs team in their groove.

    PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

    Dallas Mavericks – Kristaps Porzingis

    The Suns have a wealth of talent, while Dallas too often have only had Doncic. The need for a second man to step up and help the two-time All-NBA First Team selection is evident. Porzingis is the obvious candidate.

    While the Mavs struggled while Doncic was out, Porzingis has shown that he can play the role of leading man when required.

    His usage rate of 28.6 per cent this year is the highest it has been since he moved to Dallas – explained by Doncic's lay-off – and the knock-on effect is an increased offensive output when the simple option of passing the ball to his team-mate is removed.

    Porzingis has scored 22.8 points per game Doncic has missed this season, versus 18.6 when he has played. Even including those the pair have played together, Porzingis' offense improves from 29.8 points per 100 possessions with Doncic to 35.4 without.

    Doncic's high usage (36.3 per cent, the highest in the NBA among those involved in 250 or more possessions) reduces Porzingis' role significantly at times, but Dallas need both to fire against a team like the Suns.

    Phoenix Suns – Chris Paul

    Nominally a point guard, Doncic is more of a point forward, hogging most of the shots himself. In truth, there are few genuine point guards remaining in the NBA. Paul is one of them.

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    Given the frequency with which Paul is creating shots for team-mates, his assist-to-turnover ratio is even more impressive, ranking second with 4.38 dimes per turnover.

    With Curry and the Warriors slightly on the wane, Paul could soon be in serious consideration for the MVP award. A big performance in a big game such as this one would aid his cause.

    KEY BATTLE – Doncic to deliver in Ayton's absence?

    The Suns will be without center Deandre Ayton, the player they selected first overall in 2018 before Doncic went two picks later.

    Ayton, who has an ankle injury, was a little slower than Doncic to truly establish himself but has never struggled against the Mavs, enjoying a 10-1 record in such matchups.

    Doncic missed Phoenix's first two wins against Dallas this season and has only three victories in the 11 games he has played versus the Suns.

    With Ayton's role in Phoenix's recent success starting to alter the narrative around the 2018 draft, in which Doncic was quickly considered the most talented young player, the Dallas man may see this as an opportunity to send a message.

    HEAD TO HEAD

    This had been a closely fought rivalry until the Suns' dominance in the Ayton-Doncic years. Now, Phoenix boast a 93-74 record against the Mavs and will hope to improve that further on the road.

    Dallas are a more impressive 47-36 in home games against the Suns.

  • FIFA announces new loan regulations to prevent clubs 'hoarding players' FIFA announces new loan regulations to prevent clubs 'hoarding players'

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    Teams will initially be limited to having a maximum of eight players loaned out and eight loaned in at any given time during a season. 

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  • Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele? Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele?

    Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career appears to be drawing to a close, with the club's director of football Mateu Alemany confirming on Thursday that he is up for sale.

    Dembele's representatives have been in talks with Barca since July over a new contract for a player that arrived at Camp Nou in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

    Barca splashed the cash – €105million, to be exact – to bring the winger in from Borussia Dortmund, where he had enjoyed a wonderful campaign in 2016-17 after a move from Rennes.

    Despite Xavi wanting to keep the player, an agreement between the club and Dembele's camp has not been reached and the stand-off has now resulted in Alemany publicly stating the France international will no longer play for Barca now he has turned down their latest offer.

     

    Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Barca due to injuries and some reported attitude issues, albeit he has hardly been at Camp Nou during the most stable period.

    He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, but he has played in just 52 per cent of Barca's LaLiga matches in that time.

    Barca's plan is to move Dembele on now but, with his contract up at the end of the season, potential suitors may wish to bide their time and sign the attacker on a free transfer.

    Stats Perform explores some possible destinations.

    Liverpool

    Could a move to Anfield be on the cards for Dembele? He has often been linked with Liverpool in the past, and Jurgen Klopp's direct approach could well suit a player that performed so well in the Bundesliga – a competition renowned for aggressive pressing and counter-attacks, which the Reds have down to a tee in the Premier League.

    There is the small matter, of course, of Mohamed Salah. Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, the Egypt star plays predominantly from the right, in Dembele's preferred position. However, there is uncertainty over Salah's future, with a new contract not yet agreed. His deal runs out in 2023 and Dembele could present an ideal rotation option and eventual successor. Klopp would surely back himself to get the best out of the 24-year-old.

     

    PSG

    A team reported to hold a firm interest is Ligue 1 giants PSG. It would be ironic should Dembele – the man signed by Barca to replace Neymar – ended up playing alongside the Brazil star in Paris.

    PSG already, of course, have a star-studded attack. But with Kylian Mbappe expected to leave at the end of the season and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria not getting any younger, Dembele could provide a relatively cost-effective replacement, and a return to France might reignite his career.

    Bayern Munich

    Or could a move back to the Bundesliga be the trick for Dembele? Bayern Munich have plenty of top-quality wing options, with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, who has just signed a new long-term deal, complimented by youngster Jamal Musiala. Yet in all competitions this season, Dembele has created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes played, and that is better than any of Bayern's current wingers other than Sane (2.6).

    His 6.7 dribbles attempted per 90 ranks behind only Musiala (7.8) and he leads the way in shots (4.5). Most important, perhaps, is Dembele's tendency to cross. He has delivered 6.7 open-play crosses per 90 in 2021-22, exactly two more than Bayern's best wide player in this metric (Coman - 4.7), something that Robert Lewandowski would surely relish.

    Borussia Dortmund

    This may seem an unlikely move, but what about heading back to Dortmund? Dembele was a superstar at Signal Iduna Park in his first spell there, although fans did not take kindly to his wish to leave, and that may well mean this would not get off the ground.

    But, putting any negative emotions to one side, Dortmund have a vibrant attack under Marco Rose, though are likely to lose Erling Haaland in the close-season. While Dembele's wages might be an issue right now, should he remain at Barca for the rest of the season, could Dortmund use funds generated from a possible Haaland sale to bring back a player who played a direct hand in 30 goals (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances across all competitions in 2016-17.

     

    Juventus

    Another elite club that could provide a new lease of life for Dembele is Juve. The Serie A giants are not involved in the title race this season, at least according to their coach Massimiliano Allegri, though he will know the Bianconeri nevertheless must challenge for silverware in Europe or in the Coppa Italia. 

    Dembele could provide the spark that is missing in Juve's attack, especially with Federico Chiesa expected to miss at least six months with a serious knee injury, while Dejan Kulusevski has been rumoured to be on the transfer list.

    Newcastle United

    One of these clubs is not like the others but, given their new-found wealth – and, perhaps, the need to make a real statement signing – maybe it would be foolish to discount Newcastle.

    Whether Dembele would fancy swapping Barcelona for the north east of England and a Premier League relegation battle in January is of course up for debate, though what would not be up for debate is Newcastle, with their Saudi Arabia-backed ownership, having the funds to pull such a signing off.

    Dembele would represent a step up in quality and would surely be an instant fans' favourite at St James' Park and alongside Allan Saint-Maximin on the other flank, provide some added star power to help Newcastle survive and, possibly, thrive in future seasons.

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